How do you use technology in your classroom? According to an article by eSchool News online, approximately 86 percent of teachers say computer technology has changed their teaching methods “at least some,” while 55 percent reported that it has changed instruction “a great deal.”
The perception among many students is that they know more about technology than their teachers. This perception is not entirely unwarranted. Gone are the days when teachers can ignore technology, and teachers that do, do so at their peril. Students can and will easily plagiarize any among possibly thousands or millions of (usually poorly written) essays. Students can easily throw together a web site or Power Point demonstration with minimal effort and a few snazzy elements, unduly “wowing” the technologically naive teacher.
For the past four years of my career, I have been required to use gradebook software to send attendance and report grades. E-mail has become a dominant form of communication. My home state of Georgia has a technology requirement for teachers who plan to renew their teaching certificates. A teacher must take a class, assemble a portfolio, or take a test to meet the requirement. The Internet offers a wealth of information I would have coveted as a first year teacher, but which was unavailable back in 1997 when the World Wide Web was a smaller place.
I am very excited about the prospect of using blogs as classroom tools. My classroom blog is still just getting off the ground. I have asked students for feedback on using the blog. Frankly, they’re new to the idea of a class blog, too, and I’m not sure what they think. I have found Power Point demonstrations to be an entertaining way to convey information. A peer taught me how to create a Jeopardy game for test reviews using Power Point, and students have had a lot of fun with that when I’ve used it. One of my favorite uses of technology has been creating scavenger hunts or other web-based lessons for my students. Here are a few samples:
- Witch Hunt: A Web Scavenger Hunt for The Crucible
- Romanticism: A Movement Across the Arts (American Romanticism and its place in the Romantic Movement)
- Great Gatsby Treasure Hunt (created by Valerie Arbizu and tweaked slightly by me)
- Their Eyes Were Watching God: Zora Neale Hurston and the Folklore Tradition (based on EDSITEment’s Hurston lesson plan)
However, using technology takes a great deal of time. On the one hand, teachers have access to information at their fingertips, and I’m sure not as much library/book research is required for planning lessons; however creating web sites, Power Point demonstrations, and the like take much longer than planning other types of lessons. I think some teachers, particularly those intimidated by computers, conclude that it just isn’t worth it.
I think our peers — other teachers — are best at teaching teachers how to use technology in the classroom. We can show each other real-classroom applications and break it down in a way everyone can understand. For me, the importance and, if you will, “rarity” of what I do was underscored by two students. I was showing my Hemingway Power Point to students, and it was easier to access from my web site rather than try to locate the file (I was a bit scattered, as I didn’t have time to set up the laptop and projector — this time, it wasn’t my fault). When I pulled up the site, a student remarked, “You have a website?” I laughed and reminded the student (as did several of his classmates) that I had told them about the site the first day of class and it was on the syllabus. He said, “Yeah, I know, but when teachers say they have a website they usually mean a School Notes page or something.” I said, “Yeah, I know. My website’s COOOL!” I don’t mean to sound like I’m knocking School Notes. I do think that if you want to branch out — hosting files, really playing with the site’s appearance and content — School Notes is a bit limited. Another student, upon hearing about my site complimented my computer skills. To me, what my students get out of the technology I use is the bottom line.